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Taking your toddler to a theme park can be a daunting thought, but with these tips, you can make the most of your family day out! This guide will help you plan the perfect day out at an amusement park with your toddler or baby, with great ideas for making the day more fun for the whole family!
Tips For Visiting A Theme Park With A Toddler
When it comes to visiting a theme park with a toddler, a little planning ahead is always important. In most cases, every theme park will cater to younger kids to some degree. Some just do it better!
Any travel with a toddler requires a little extra planning, in the same way travel with a baby means extra things to consider.
Here is our ultimate guide to visiting a theme park with a toddler or baby:
1. Choose the right theme park
Not all theme parks are created equal – some are better suited for toddlers than others with attractions targetting a younger audience.
Do your research before you go and pick a park that has plenty of rides and attractions that your toddler will be able to enjoy. A visit to a theme park should be about making memories as a family, not just standing in line for the big rollercoasters!
For example, look for attractions without age limits so that you know your toddler will be old enough to join the fun.
Also, check out the type of entertainment on offer to see if there are shows or wildlife experiences that the whole family can enjoy together.
2. Go at the right time of year
The best time to visit a theme park with a toddler or baby is during the quieter months, outside of school holidays. This will help to avoid the large crowds and queues that can make a day out stressful
If you are visiting during peak season, try to go mid-week rather than at the weekend. And get to the park as early as possible to make the most of the shorter queues for rides and attractions.
Most theme parks will have stroller rental available, but it may be worth bringing your own from home if you have one that your child is comfortable in. This will also save you time as you won’t need to queue to rent a stroller when you first get into the park.
Even if your toddler is older and mostly prefers to walk, it will be a long day and there’s a good chance they will be happy to spend at least some of the day seated.
This also doubles as a place to nap so you aren’t having to carry around a sleeping toddler or baby.
Most amusement parks have stroller parking areas for major attractions and performances.
5. Know Their Limits
A theme park can be an overwhelming environment for a toddler or baby, so it’s important to know their limits and take breaks when needed
If your toddler is starting to get tired or cranky, find a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of the park for a break. This could be sitting on a bench in the shade or finding a grassy spot to sit and have a snack.
It’s also important to keep an eye on the time as most toddlers will have a regular daily routine including naps.
If possible, try to schedule your day around their natural sleep pattern so that they are well-rested and less likely to get overwhelmed or cranky.
You might time your lunch when they are due to nap so they can sleep in the stroller while the rest of the family eats.
6. Use The Rider Switch Pass
If you have a baby or toddler in tow, take advantage of the ‘baby swap’ or ‘rider switch’ pass at many major amusement parks. This is particularly a great feature of visiting the Disney Parks.
This allows one adult to wait with the child while the other adult takes a turn on the rides. When they have finished, the second adult can then enjoy the ride without having to queue again.
If the fun park you are visiting does not have this option, check to see what options they do have to cater to families with younger kids.
7. Let Them Lead
When it comes to exploring the theme park, let your toddler be the leader and follow their lead. This will help to avoid any meltdowns or tantrums as they won’t feel like they are being forced to do anything they don’t want to do.
If they want to stop and watch one of the street performances or take a closer look at a particular exhibit, go with the flow and let them take their time.
This also goes for rides – if there are some that they are not tall enough to go on or just don’t want to, that’s fine. There will be plenty of other things for them to do in the park.
8. Slow Down And Enjoy It
It is important to remind yourself that visiting a fun park with a toddler or a baby is not the same as visiting with older kids or no kids. You do need to be more flexible and realise that you likely won’t fit everything in that you might have wanted to do.
It’s best to take your time and enjoy the things that you are able to do rather than rushing around trying to fit everything in.
This is a great opportunity to bond with your child and create some special memories that will last a lifetime.
9. Dress Comfortably
Both you and your toddler will be more comfortable if you dress for the occasion. Wear comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking – this is not the time to break in new shoes!
It can also be quite warm in a theme park, during the summer months, so dress your toddler in light and breathable clothing to suit the weather, with layers for when the temperatures drop.
A hat is also a good idea to protect them from the sun, and don’t forget to pack sunscreen too.
10. Have A Back-Up Plan
Even if you have meticulously planned your day, there is always a chance that something might not go to plan. A ride might be closed or your toddler might have a tantrum and need to leave the park for a break.
It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan so that you are not left feeling disappointed or frustrated.
It might also mean that as parents you are taking turns as to who is doing the toddler activities or waiting behind with the smaller kids, while the other parent is enjoying the thrill rides and entertaining the bigger kids.
If you both love thrill rides, make sure you plan to take turns before the day arrives so that there is no miscommunication and stress trying to negotiate this on the day.
The most important thing is that you and your toddler have a fun day out!
How To Save Money On Theme Park Visits With Kids
Theme park visits are expensive! There isn’t really a way to avoid the fact that entry prices are usually high and then you’ve got to factor in the cost of food and drinks, parking, souvenirs… the list goes on.
But there are some ways that you can save money when planning a fun park visit with your family:
Look For Deals
Before you book anything, have a look around online to see if you can find any deals or special offers. This might be for a particular theme park or for accommodation if you are staying overnight.
You might also find that your membership to a club, such as the RACQ or RACV auto club membership here in Australia, will get you a discount on entry prices.
Annual passes or multi-day passes are typically better value than single entry tickets. You may also find special pricing if you live locally, i.e. a locals pass.
Go Outside Of Peak Times
If at all possible, try to visit the theme park outside of peak times. Peak times will usually be during school holidays or on weekends during the summer months.
During these times, the parks are often much busier which can mean longer queues for rides and attractions. If you can visit during the week or in the shoulder season, you’ll often find that it’s cheaper and less crowded.
While you might not be able to get cheaper deals on entry, you will get more value for your money when you can fit more into your day.
Bring Your Own Food
While it’s tempting to eat all of the theme park food, it is often overpriced and not always that great. If you can, try to bring your own food and drinks into the park with you.
Most parks will allow you to bring in a small amount of food and drink, as long as it’s not hot food and you’re not bringing alcohol.
You might also want to consider packing some snacks for the kids to avoid the temptation of buying them lollies or ice-creams every time they see them!
If you want to bring your cooler along, there’s a good chance you can’t take this into the park with you so you may need to consider exiting the park for lunch and finding a park or shady spot outside the amusement park to enjoy your lunch.
Take Advantage Of Free Activities
Many theme parks will have free activities that you can do, as well as paid experiences. Make the most of the free activities to help save you some money.
For example, character dining experiences at Disneyland is an expensive experience. It might be well worth the cost for your family, however, if you are trying to keep your costs down, this type of thing might not fit into your budget.
Instead, take some time to line up and meet the characters in the park. Many of them will have set times when they are out and about and you can often get a photo with them without having to book or pay anything
Souvenirs are one of the biggest money traps at theme parks! It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and buy things for the kids (or yourself) that you don’t really need. Your memories are what is important!
If you can, try to avoid buying souvenirs or limit yourself to just one small item each.
If you have younger children, you might want to consider getting them a cheap toy from the supermarket related to their favourite character before you go so that they won’t be as tempted by all of the souvenirs in the park.
These are just a few tips to help you save money on your next family theme park visit!
Do you have any top tips for visiting a theme park with a toddler or baby? Let us know in the comments below!